Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. remains optimistic about its abilities to make chips using thinner process technologies going forward. Last week the company said that it would start risk production of integrated circuits using its 7nm process technology in 2017. Mass production of commercial 7nm products will likely begin in 2018, about a year after the start of risk production.
TSMC started to develop its 7nm fabrication technology in early 2014. By now, the company has designed the majority of key elements of the new manufacturing process and even has begun its 7nm design and technology collaboration activity with several of its major customers. Such collaborations help to ensure that TSMC’s fabrication processes deliver what its clients need.
“Our 7nm technology developments today are well in progress,” said Mark Liu, TSMC president and co-CEO, during the company’s conference call with investors and financial analysts last week. “TSMC's 7nm technology will leverage most of the tools used in 10nm, in the meantime achieve a new generation of technology value to our customers. The 7nm technology risk production date is targeted at early 2017.”
According to TSMC, it will continue to use immersion tools with innovative multiple patterning techniques at 7nm node and is evaluating usage of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to reduce complexity and manufacturing costs.
“The EUV technology provides not only some cost benefit, but also simplify the process,” added Mr. Liu. “That means you can replace multiple layers with one layer that helps your yield improvement. So there is opportunity both in quality and cost always exist so long as EUV's productivity comes to the threshold point.”
TSMC admits that EUV lithography is still in the engineering mode and is years away from mass adoption. As a result, it is possible that the company’s 10nm process technology will not get an EUV option at all.
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KitGuru Says: TSMC is not the only company, which will produce chips using 7nm manufacturing process. However, TSMC is the first manufacturer to actually disclose its exact plans, including risk production timeframe. Looks like the company is rather optimistic about its 7nm fabrication technology.